Some years ago, a little book entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten soared to the top of the New York Time bestseller list, eventually selling more than 7 million copies. I can guess the reason for its widespread attention. Implicit in its title is the idea that the simple concept of fairness is something we all value, and come to recognize and expect from a very early age.
Our own kindergarteners learn that when we treat ourselves and others with respect, take turns, and help each other, we create an environment in which everyone can play and learn. Fairness becomes a sort of social contract, and as any kindergarten teacher can tell you, children are enthusiastic about policing its terms. “No fair!” is a phrase they seem to master even before kindergarten, right along with their ABCs.
But there is another phrase we hear from our kindergartners as they interact with each other: “I’ll give you a boost!” I remember the simple gesture from my own childhood. If I was trying to reach a high bar on the playground, a friend might put two hands together, interlocking fingers to create a literal step to help me reach my goal. A “boost” was all I needed, and once I reached the high bar, I could swing and play with the rest of them.
Turns out kindergarteners are onto something. a little boost for those who need it ensures equity for all by allowing everyone an equal opportunity to fully participate. The same concept applies to creating a learning environment that is fair — one that gives all students the same opportunities for success. As educators, we now know that to offer that sameness in opportunity, we must embrace the differences in our students and give that all-important boost to those students in need.
Students are individuals, with unique perspectives, challenges, and needs, some of which can interfere with learning. Once we understand those inequities and respond with instruction and support that effectively and respectfully addresses them, children can begin to make real progress toward academic and social-emotional growth.
We have great expectations for every student; we must set the bar high to prepare them for future challenges. In delivering prescriptive interventions where needed — giving a boost — we are creating an environment that is fair and equitable so that every student can gain the satisfaction of reaching and grasping that high bar. It is our hope that from that vantage point, they will catch a glimpse of their own vast potential for success.
Benjamin H. Picard, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools